Criminalization of freedom of speech

By Zeeba T. Hashmi

freedom of speech


Political correctives seems to be the rule of the day when sitting with a group of unknown acquaintances and discussing weather.  Striking as it may seem, but uttering something as banal as a hiccup might even cause quite a little storm in an otherwise, highly monotoned hegemonic room.  It may sound offensive, but it will not be bemoaned as a matter of civic sense; rather it will be condemned with death if it falls within the injunction of free-speech on the other side of the conundrum.

Free speech equates to civil offense?

If a response is sought from individuals independently in a highly secretive meeting that ensures a 100% anonymity of the person, the respondent may first roll his/her eyes, shrug a little and make fun of you posing an idiot, non-nonsensical question.  “Of course not, stupid” is probably their quick reflex.  They will say a lot other things to themselves , blurt out as many profanities as they want and later seek “toba” (repentance) for what they said: but when  in a company, they’ll try to keep a straight face and attempt to answer it as diplomatically as possible, depending on how liberal they are in a company of his righteous, god-fearing compatriots.  Freedom of expression is highly   reliant on the sort of expression  to be used freely and by gender and it varies from society to society.  There are indeed, many paradoxes involved when it is to be used in public.  Mundane talk about fashion and TV dramas and so on.  Political associations  are not taken seriously and are usually dubbed as cute talk.  Business talk is between man to man, and students need not question teachers or elders and so on and so forth.  There are many a gaps to be found in what we are expressing and how it is perceived in a highly controlled, constricted environment.  If this is not so, use of violence comes in as the option to hold the reverence of the already dictated appropriateness of communication: and hence because of discouragement of allowing divergent ideas or innovations in context to penetrate in communication system layout that is guarded by rigid hierarchy, differences in opinion are not properly understood or rationalized, and any attempt to bridge the gaps is seen with great suspicion; often delegated with punishment.  The inculcation of fear is the primary factor to be considered when deciphering expression here.  And those who show no fear are often considered foolish or suicidal.
There is a perfect situation in the making when common-sense takes a flight.  Our most  dis-appreciated   vocal Dr. Pervez Hoodhboy said something even more bolder about making favorable provision for scientific growth in the country.

In Pakistan, unfortunately, the conditions for developing science are not good. Science is all about intellectual freedom and questioning the basis of ideas. It requires that people accept the scientific method, which puts logic and observation above preconceived ideas. These conditions are not fulfilled in Pakistan or in most Muslim countries.

Like, Subhanallah!

Let’s not forget how advocating freedom of expression and intrigue has cost him his job from one of the most renowned academic institutes in Pakistan.

If we flip the original question: how we respond is shockingly ironical

Does taking human life equate to civil right?

What sort of a question is this?  No in a heart-beat!

Think again how you can answer this question in the company of bearded, stout, pious men.  Again, you may have to answer it as diplomatically as you can, depending on how liberal you can afford yourself to be on the conundrum.

Intimidating slogans and banners that criminalize free speech can be found everywhere, starting from the back side of auto-riskshaws to the banners on Lahore’s Mall Road.

If equating freedom of speech allowed for one and limiting/criminalizing for others it to be analyzed, our sense of justice soon becomes misplaced or biased.  There are actually laws against a sect of Muslims for uttering traditional Muslim Assalam u Alaikum  greetings in public, yet there are no laws against certain religious cerical groups that openly  issue fatwas of murder and incite violence and harm against minorities.


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